Get ready to factor in a new charge on guest folios at some resorts: the daily service fee. While it may sound like one more aspect of the seller's market squeeze, resort staffers say they instituted the fees to help, not hurt.
"We kept getting a lot of complaints," says Christopher Pipes, CHSP, at The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs. "Clients felt like they were being nickeled and dimed every time they turned around. A charge to pick up the phone to make a local call, a charge to go to the fitness center." In response, The Broadmoor conducted a survey of 500 social and group guests, asking if they would prefer an all-inclusive daily fee on their folios. "Ninety-some-odd percent said, 'Go for it,'" reports Pipes. Instituted recently, the mandatory charge, $10 per day for single occupancy, $12.50 per day for double occupancy, includes housekeeping gratuities; incoming faxes, local calls and 800-number access fees; the fitness center, including aerobics classes; and in-room coffee, tea, cider, and cocoa. "Guests can come in their room and immediately enjoy a nice cup of coffee or spot of tea, without being charged $3," Pipes says. "It's a real win/win."
Other resorts are doing variations on a theme. The $5 per day charge recently instituted at the Walt Disney World Dolphin covers services similar to those at The Broadmoor, plus daily newspaper delivery, but the fee doesn't cover gratuities. The charge now appears in meeting.
"When planners sign, they are acknowledging the resort services fee," says Bob Nicoli, director of convention services. "It's not really such a bad thing," he adds, pointing out that the package is valued at $12.70 per day.
The Peaks at Telluride (CO) bills guests $15 daily to cover gratuities for all service staff, except food and beverage staff. Spa access is free, while guests pay on an item-by-item basis for other outlets such as handball courts--although planners can arrange for a daily package fee instead. The gratuities charge was instituted about two years ago, when the resort was bought by Carefree Resorts, because the policy was standard at other Carefree properties. "Guests had felt awkward," says Elaine De-mas, director of conference services. "They had to keep taking money out of their pockets every time someone did something for them. We wanted people, once they get here, to relax."
The Lansdowne Conference Resort in Leesburg, VA, just instituted a $3 per day charge that also covers gratuities. Amenities such as parking and health club, are free. For the past three years, Westin's resorts have charged a daily fee that includes services such as the health club and local calls, but gratuities are left to the guests' discretion.
Are the package fees a trend? Perhaps so. Properties such as the Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado and Nashville's Opryland Hotel Convention Center are currently reviewing the idea. Others are bucking the trend. The Ojai Valley Inn is building a spa, but "we aren't going to tack on a $5 admission," says Michael Ellingson, director of sales and marketing. "We didn't want to get into nickel-and-dime comments." Nor is the property going to institute a daily charge.
"We pride ourselves in not having any hidden service costs," asserts Alvin Bett-cher, director of sales and marketing, Crowne Plaza Resort Hilton Head Island (SC). Housekeeping, the health club, and parking are free, although guests pay for tennis and golf, as is standard. Gratuities are left up to the guest, and that's the way it's going to stay, says Bettcher.